A Fox's Purpose

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A sad story about a fox discovering his purpose.

He opened his eyes. Or at least he thought he did, because earlier he couldn’t see, and then he could. It was foggy at first, but the rays of lights slowly coalesced into a little girl’s face. A smiling face. Or at least he assumed that’s what it was. She had short black hair which fell down equally around her head at ear level, except her face. Large blue eyes looked right into his, and he began to wonder what color his eyes were, of all things. Beyond the girl, he could see that they were inside a house, and what looked to be a nice one at that. The walls were made of antique looking wood, and the yellow filament light fixtures gave the house a rustic feel.

There was something wrapped around his waist, and to his horror, he found himself bound. He suddenly felt trapped, and he found that he didn’t like that feeling. When he looked, he saw that both the little girl’s hands were holding him high up off the ground. And he saw his body. He had a moment of paralyzing dread as he tried to puzzle out why he was covered in medium length orange hair, and why he was so small. Or maybe it was that she was big, he thought.

“What am I?” He said aloud, not meaning to, and surprising himself with the slightly deep voice that came out. The face in front of him smiled, and then spoke.

“Why, you’re a toy fox! The latest one at that,” she said, a laugh creeping into her voice. “And you are mine.” That last part might have been frightening, if said with malice, but spoken in the tone she just used, it was comforting, in a way. Thoughts raced through his mind. I’m a toy? What does that mean? What is a fox? But one thing bothered him more than the rest.

“What is my name?” He was still surprised at his voice, and that he was able to speak, even though he didn’t remember learning how. He just knew.

“Hmmm,” the girl intoned. “How about Red?” He thought about that for a second.

“That sounds like a fine name, I like it.”

“My name is Jane, and your’s is Red.” She giggled and set Red down gently on the wooden floor which had been sanded smooth and lacquered to a sheen. Red found it easy to maintain his balance on his four paws, but to the extent of his memory, this was the first time he had ever stood on anything. He promptly sat, as to not test his balance too much. He looked up at his person, his owner.

The knowledge that told him that was just there, providing itself and giving a thorough explanation. It began to unpack, slowly, in chunks. First, it was the word toy, and what it implied to Red. His knowledge, which seemed to have a mind of its own as it unpacked, told him that he was made in a factory, programmed with the latest Artificial Intelligence, and then packaged and shipped to the child who would open it. This brought strong emotions into Red’s head, mostly the despair that he was a child’s plaything. Then fox was unpacked in his mind, and things made a little more sense. An image of a furry orange animal popped into his mind, and it looked like him. Red felt a sense of calm when he knew why he was covered in fur. His mind continued to uncover certain things, slowly, chunk by chunk.

“I told you,” a voice said from behind Red. “You should have just set it to default boot-up. Now you have to teach it.” Red turned his head to the voice, and saw a boy sitting crossed legged behind him. He had a headful of yellow hair, and hazel eyes. His light blue sweater made the color of his eyes stand out, giving an unnerving look to him.

“Stop it Daniel, I wanted him this way. And he doesn’t know everything. Didn’t you read the manual? He only gets enough information to function, and some other things that he needs to know. And besides, it would have been boring just to have him already know everything. I know ToyTech recommended it, but it’ll be fun teaching him.”

Red listened carefully, and tried to understand what was being said. He saved the words he didn’t know to ask later. When he heard ‘ToyTech’, his mind unpacked a huge section of knowledge, taking almost half a second. ToyTech was the company that made him. The image of a large, white building filled his mind, and then it changed to the inside, where he saw conveyor belts filled with parts of things, and huge robotic arms piecing them together. Red felt like he was on the brink of knowing much more than he did, but also like they were being withheld from him by something in his mind. He got the gist of it though, and it explained the reason for his naivete.

After a short while, Jane took Red to her room and set him on her bed, next to the pillow. He was just short of the pillow’s length, including his tail, but that didn’t matter to Red.

It didn’t take very long for him and Jane to become friends. She added him to her play time with her other dolls, telling him what part to play. It took him some time to understand, but eventually he was playing his part perfectly. He enjoyed play time, but moreover, he adored the times when they would talk, not only because he was learning many new words and their meanings, but also because he could tell the she enjoyed talking to him as well, and nothing made him happier than to comfort her. That was Red’s purpose, after all, but he saw it as much more than that.

A few weeks after he was opened, he even set up Jane’s dolls the way she liked it for when she came back from school. Red waited at her bedroom window, watching for Jane to come walking up the long driveway. Typically, he would run out to meet her, but he had something special planned for that day. When she opened the front door, Red leaped off the window sill and took his place among the other stuffed animals. Jane burst into the room and threw her backpack onto the bed.

“Red? I’m back!”

“Hello madam, would you like a cup of tea?” Red used his best British accent, just the way she talked during tea parties. She jumped right into the act and sat down in front of Red and the other animals. Red nudged a white plastic tea cup toward her.

“Why, yes I would, fine sir.” Red adored playing with her, and they played often, from tea time to hide and go seek to tag.

He learned so much within the first two months, that he grimaced when he remembered how naive he was when he was first opened. He learned why he had been given to her – as a birthday gift, she had told him – and also the dangers of the household. Common sense helped, but not with the incident involving the cat. He was a little smaller than the cat, but she nonetheless took him for fair game. He left with a few scrapes, and nothing else apart from the knowledge that cats are not to be trifled with.

A few months later, in the dead of winter with snow falling outside in slates, the family had been invited to a Christmas party an hour away, and Jane had told Red that they never refused one. Jane took Red - she took him everywhere she went, much to his satisfaction, except to school, where he wasn’t allowed - and dashed to the car with the rest of the Beckett family, as Red now knew them to be. Jane forgot to buckle, so Red took it upon himself to do it. As the car drove out of their long driveway and into the woods, he bit the buckle, and drug it across her, putting it into the slot with a snap. Daniel, who was sitting next to Jane, rolled his eyes.

“You have one of those pets.” Jane didn’t reply, but just pet Red on his head. He sat next to her, as he usually did when they went out in the car. It was dark out, and the car’s headlights shone far as they drove through the woods, lighting up the surrounding trees. Up came a bend, and Mr. Beckett didn’t see the ice slicked across the road. He pressed on at normal speed, and turned the wheel, but the car continued straight forward. He jerked at the wheel frantically, and slammed the brakes.

The trees were suddenly in front of them as they crashed into them. Red, along with the rest of the Beckett family were thrown forward. Shards of glass flew into the air as Red and Daniel collided with the seat in front of them. Mr. and Mrs. Beckett went through the windshield, and out of sight. Red held his eyes shut after that, not wanting to see what would happen next.

He opened his eyes. Red was on the car’s carpeted floor. It was dark, but he could make out shards of broken glass, and blood coated some of them as they lay over nearly every surface. With a start, he struggled to get to his paws, and then looked for Jane. She was right behind him, still secured with her seat belt, but her head was hanging limply. He climbed up and nudged her with his snout. She opened her eyes and drew a long breath. Red sighed a mental sigh of relief.

“Mom? Dad?” She rasped. There was no reply.  Red could see the red line on her neck from the belt, but otherwise she seemed okay. She unbuckled and pulled Daniel back into his seat. She gasped and covered her mouth with a hand. Red could see tears running down her cheeks. He didn’t look at Daniel; he didn’t have to. After a moment, Red saw Jane begin looking for her parents, and not finding them in the car, she opened the door and got out. Red followed her and marveled at the flakes of snow falling around them, but he didn’t let his mind wander for long. He followed Jane to the front of the car, where she knelt by the bodies of her parents. Red waited until she was finished crying and went to her.

“We need to get help.” Said Red as softly as he could. When she didn’t answer, he said, “If we don’t go, you’ll die out here.” He regretted the harshness of his words, but he knew the cold would kill her after too much exposure. Jane turned around and picked Red up and hugged him tight. She started crying again, and Red let her hug him.

“Why Red? Why did this have to happen?” She asked through sobs.

“I don’t know,” Red said honestly. “But I know that we need to look for help. Walking down the road is our best bet. The car is too damaged to call anyone, and the heater won’t work.” Red knew because he had checked earlier, hoping that they could call someone for help. Jane hesitated, then conceded.

“Your right. I’m sorry,” she said. Giving a last sniff, she set Red down and stood up. She had been out there for ten minutes, and her joints were slow and stiff. She tried to drab her parents back into the car, but she wasn’t strong enough. She contented herself with piling snow on top of them until someone else could help. Jane then followed Red and began walking down the road.

The wind picked up, blowing gusts of freezing air at the two of them as they slowly walked. Jane had her arms wrapped tightly around her, and it was obvious that her light sweater wasn’t nearly enough for the weather.

After about ten minutes of slow walking, Jane collapsed into a heap on the roadside.

“I can’t,” she said slowly. “I can’t keep going.” She curled into a ball, as if trying to conserve heat.

Red, who was mostly unaffected by the cold except for stiff joints and slightly blurry vision, watched, thinking of something that he could do to help. He didn’t generate any heat, and he didn’t know how to make himself do that. So, with nothing else to do, he went to her and squeezed through her arms to be close to her. Jane smiled a weak, blue-lipped smile, and pet Red on the head softly. He nestled against her, trying to comfort her, and to provide warmth in any way. Red ran through his mind desperately, searching for something, anything to help, but nothing came. He decided that if Jane was to die there, than she would die with him there with her.

Jane was shivering violently, but it began to slow. She kept Red in a firm hug, still petting him.

“Thank you,” she said. “For being my friend. You helped me more than you could know.”

“I couldn’t help you enough,” Red said bitterly, angry with himself. Jane moved him, sluggishly, so he could face her.

“No,” she said with a quivering voice. “You helped me more than enough. More than I deserve. Thank you.” Red didn’t reply but nestled as close as he could to her again. Then, with a last, “Thank you, Red,” she was gone. Her grip on Red loosened, but he remained where he was, not wanting to leave. He didn’t ever want to leave. He loved Jane. She taught him nearly everything he knew, had been there since the very moment he opened his eyes, and had confided in him her every secret.

Red could find solace in one thing though; he had been there when it mattered. Now, he didn’t want to be anywhere else. He didn’t know all of the commands he could force on his body, and he didn’t try to use any of them. He just simply wished to remain there with Jane, and remain he did. His vision started to fade, but he didn’t fight it. The last thing Red saw was Jane’s face, which had a smile frozen onto it even after she was dead. Red smiled as well, as much as a fox could smile, at peace with everything, and let go.

Submitted: February 02, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Caleb Ellis. All rights reserved.

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